Ryland Summers, copywriter at TABOO Australia, shares his creative journey with LBB’s Zoe Antonov and tells us why you should never listen to anyone who thinks puns are bad
Like many of us, Ryland Summers was glued to the TV as a child. And he admits that, although it may have ‘rotted [his] brain’ and he now communicates mostly through references to dated sitcoms, it has given him the sense of humor needed for a job like his. However, as he was growing up, he had no clue about advertising, let alone that would end up having a career in it.
A ‘pretty big goodie-two-shoes’ at school, the copywriter was interested in different sports, as well as music (playing the trumpet at school, where he became co-vice-music captain in his band). As someone who is naturally introverted dependent to who he is around, Ryland admits taking life ‘pretty easy’. What gets him going are usually state of the world problems in particular anything from public transport to global politics. He believes that growing up, his parents’ left-leaning political views helped shape him as a person today and gave him a good moral compass.
Later in life Ryland pursued a Bachelor’s degree at Melbourne University, majoring in English and Economics. After seriously enjoying the English part of the course, he went on to do an advanced diploma in Professional Screenwriting at RMIT, ‘which saw [his] passion for writing and structure really blossom.’ Floating around for a bit in Australia’s screenwriting industry, he ended up hearing about AWARD School and joining, which was technically the first step to his career today.
Ryland admits that AWARD was also the place where he really got to hone his craft, besides, of course, from working on projects after school. “AWARD School showed me what exactly and idea is – at least in the advertising sense – and I’d say just working in advertising and learning on the job early on really helped lift the level of my craft.”
Some casual jobs here and there during his studies didn’t add up to his CV, but his first job post-AWARD school did, a copywriter for Grey Melbourne. ‘It was accidental!’ says Ryland when asked how exactly the stumble into advertising happened. “I had zero knowledge of the industry at that point but looked into it and saw the word ‘copywriting’ and though, well I could probably do that.”
Turns out, he really could. His first project ever was spec work for Huawei mobile, where he had to work between the Melbourne and Sydney offices, but his team still managed to impress the client. Although Ryland believes that every piece of work is a stepping stone of various size, ‘but always taking [him] forward’ he is adamant that it is best to not get attached to an idea or project too much. “Just keep it in the bottom draw or adapt it to the fit of the feedback.”
When it comes to his favourite part of his job, Ryland loves seeing a campaign in its initial ‘brainstorming’ form. “I do love seeing a campaign in its finished form, but I’d actually say I like the initial brainstorming the best. You get to be as creative as you want and just let your imagination run wild.”
On the flip side, he believes that the most challenging part of his career is working with clients he morally objects to. In a world as wide as the advertising one, it is perhaps only a matter of time for a creative to run into some work that doesn’t align with their own views of the world, but luckily for Ryland, to him it has happened only a handful of times. “Early on in my career I had to work on horse racing [but] these days, working at TABOO is great because we’re a B-Corp, which means there’s little chance of that happening at the moment.”
Aside from horse, a morally objectionable subjects that Ryland is iffy about working on is gambling advertising. He explains: “Not so much for the ads themselves, this year some gambling adverts are probably top in my list of favourite ads. Just morally, I think gambling ads are wrong, especially since they saturate the media landscape.”
Recognition from his peers and being proud of his work are some among many other aspirations he has when he is delving into the creative process on a new project. But perhaps the ultimate goal would be ‘to have work that has a positive change on people’s lives – even if that’s as simple as entertaining someone for 15 seconds of the day.’
As a newer creative in the industry, the copywriter admits to be quite excited about the move to the metaverse. “It’s going to be interesting (not talking about Facebook here, I’m talking real metaverse). It’s hard to tell which way the industry is going to get involved, but it would be cool for brands to actually boost this online world rather than trying to hijack it.”
Ryland’s passions outside advertising revolve around political issues and animal welfare. “People need to realise we all have more in common with each other than we think and that lifting other people up and helping the less fortunate is far more rewarding than anything else.” Beyond that, his motivation stems from his family and friends and the strive to make them happy as much as he can.